tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN October 3, 2014 8:01pm-9:16pm EDT
leaving hundreds dead in the clash between ukraine and russia, what you might ask does this have to do with world war i. i'm barbara pinto, i'll be moderating our discussion today. and first i will introduce you to the gentlemen who will bring this discussion to life. on the left is dr. chad williams i&< of african-american studies. executive director ofify alpha threat da national history honor society and a board member of the world war i association. and last but not least, author of borrowed soldiers, americans under british command 1819, he is a national archivist who also teaches history at the u.s. naval academy.
gentlemen, our panel of experts will be answers questions from me. if you're watching live, they can also answer questions from you as well. they'll be taking questions from our audience. you can tweet questions to us @www1cc or message us on our face boork page at world war i spelled out. world war i centennial commission. before we hear from our panel, we would like to take you to gaza and to al jazeera correspondent john henry who has been watching the crisis unfold for the past few weeks. he filed this report for us last week before the most recent round of cease fires. >> somehow i ended up at the wrong war, on sunday morning i had a ticket to iraq and by monday evening, i was on my way to gaza. since i have been here, i have seen a failed cease fire, i have seen an escalation, i have seen
hamas, the, that pretty much runs gaza accused of targeting civilians with these multiple rocket attacks out of gaza. they have eventually as of today killed one person. i have seen israel say they were striking military targets and among the 213 people they have killed, according to outside organizations, something like half or more of those people are civilians. some of whom are seen up close. 213 killed now, 1,565 wounded as of today. and if you look at the skyline behind me, there have been plumes of smoke because of the israeli air, land and sea strikes that have sieged this area. there have also been multiple rocket attacks coming out of this area, and of course we have seen the results in the streets. there have been dozens of homes
of hamas leaders, something political, all destroyed, buildings like the police station, the ministry of the interior. any center of power here in town has been targeted, the israelis have struck over 1,000 targets and they say they have thousands more to go. i falked talked to families who their homes days ago, heard about a cease fire yesterday and were told again with israeli leaf lets dropped from the sky to leave their homes near gaza, and return to gaza, a city is not prepared to handle the 100,000 people that have been asked to leave their home. this is a city with a shortage of water, there is a shortage of electricity, most people get about 8 hours a day. and there is a shortage of food. 80% of people here live in
poverty and receive food aid. and i have noticed that this is a conflict with no end in sight. i was at the home of a hamas official today, that was destroyed, his name was mahmoud zarhar. what's interesting is that in 2004, his son was killed and his wife was injured is. another son was killed in a separate engagement with israel. and then here today, it all happens over again. and we await a cease fire and hope whatever happens at the end of this conflict will make a substantial difference between israel and palestine over the long run. >> this conflict seems to have no end. but the beginning may have been more clear cut. hu does this fighting in israel and gaza relate back to world war i? >> it's a pleasure to be here. you have to know the world war i
to understand the conflict going on now. in 1914, sheriff hussein, an arab leader, a local arab leader approached the british government about alliance because the turkish empire controlled all the middle east. in 1915, you have the famous mcmahon-hussein correspondent where the arabs are told, yes, you can ally with us, but we will control iraq and all these areas, we will be supreme. and it's accepted after a long silence. but the key is in 1918, the -- here the british informed the jewish people that they would have a new homeland and assured the arabs that they would not be disturbed. using the word disturbing, the british never intended any of what they said in this time. you have to remember, britain was the largest imperial empire
in the world, closed 25% of the earth's surface at this time. in 1918, you have a military cam palestine, which was on the level of what they anticipated for world war i, but the key to winning palestine for the british is it would cover the flank for the suez canal. it was a gem zostone in their empire. the tragedy that a lot of people are not aware of. and this is what the arabs look back with a lot of dislike, on july 7, 1918, a joint declaration was made by the british and french governments promising that if the arabs continued to fight against the turks they would be given their independence and agreement. this was going to happen over and over again, and was never intended. when the war ended, the british
soldiers, actually most of them were indian, asian and african. there was an immediate mobilization because people at home wanted the war to end. what happened was, no one anticipated but between 1919 and 1922, every area, because they're not states yet, in the middle east rose up p and revoted. because at versailles, they thought president wilson's self-determination gave them their freedom. wilson and lloyd george and hat sonson only intended that self-determination to be in europe. so you had these uprisings. in 1922, they finally start to stettal down and iraq and egypt become quote, independent. no, the british still control them. they want the oil in mesopotamia, which is today's iraq, because they originalably did a mess sew poe tanian -- the
first real weapon required oil. but it in the 1920s, that the arabs nationalism starts to rebuild and with it islamic evolution. in 1935, you have a major af9 uprising and palestine is crushed, but where the trouble starts before the second world war is that in 1939, the british government issued their so-called white paper or white statement, where they said you cannot have independence for ten more years and it caused a lot of trouble. now what happens when world war ii breaks out, is that many of the arab leaders will support the nazis because it's the imperialistic british and french who have controlled them. this becomes important but also the fact that hitler's army beat france in 1940 and embarrassed
the british in 1941 and '42 in the pacific. the middle east is never again going to be the same. again in '41, syria and lebanon are promised their freedom at the end of the war. this has to has been because by then britain and france are defeated as major imperialistic powers. the key here is 1947 after world war ii. this is when the british decide they cannot handle the religious problems in palestine or india, we want to turn it over to the u.s. and we said no. but to make a long story short, as soon as the united nations are claims the birth of israel, there is a war in 1948. there are other wars, '67, '73, this brings in the great powers, because after world war ii, in
africa, asia and particularly in the middle east, all the nationalists could get weapons they could not get before. between 67 and 73, the arabs switch to a -- i'll wrap up by saying you have the palestinian liberation organization with arafat and now it's hamas controlling that area, i call it a more dangerous ireland, it's over religion, but this is not going to be settled for a long time. >> you're saying it all goes back to world war 1? >> all the way back to world war i at the beginning. >> we need to think of world war i as an imperial war. in many respects that was a war about empire, all of the major blij rents were major imperial
powers, controlling vast amounts of land, resources as well as people all around the world, in africa, in asia, in the middle east, and many observers at the time, recognized that the roots of the war lay in the national rivalries over imperial control, over these different parts of the world. so it's important to think about what's happening today, in gaza, in israel, in ukraine, but also in other areas, in iraq, syria, as was mentioned, in africa, and sudan. the congo, as being the results, the legacies of imperialism, the drawing of national borders that many many respects were arbitrary that disregarded the national, ethnic and religious identities of the people who live there had. when we think about what world war i means today in our current
world, in many respects we're still experiencing the struggles over self-determine nation that emanated the hopes and aspirations of many all over the world at the end of the war and are still being fought for today. >> just to sum it up, one of the points that dr. thompson made about the end of the war, the armies were more interested in demobilization, getting people home, and that was -- reporting about what's going on in the middle east, but it really wasn't much of a concern in this country, but as time went on, after the war, we're celebrating, we're moving on from the war, it wasn't possible in the middle east, and things were exacerbating and of course getting worse, and now we're concerned and it's the top news story that's going on. >> russia and ukraine, seems to be spinning out of control.
also with these groups during world war i, how did this all start? >> trouble between the ukraine and the great russians, the moscowvites start back in the middle ages, but with world war i, in 1918, the germans had conquered a good part of the eastern part of europe and the russians had dropped out of the war with the revolution in 1917. the ukrainians declared themselves a separate republic. the treaty was negated with the peace treaty at versailles. but i want to mention, which is is critical to understand the ukraine-russia and other things. at the end of the war, we all know four empires collapsed. german, austria hungarian, russian and turkish, this whole area is where you've got to understand the second world war is going to be born because the
peace treaty of versailles did not resolve what world war i was fought about but actually is going to increase the problems, my colleagues will go into that later. but i want to mention in 1920, poe land was reborn. it had not existed since 1795. well the poles went to war against the balshivic s's. they also got control of the polish territory. the treaty of versailles could object hold if the united states was there and our senate voted down the treaty, so the treat which depended on britain and france policing the treaty. britain's not going to do it. her biggest trade partner is germany, so she's not going to do it. but the danger was in the east, because the treaty of versailles was dead if germany or the soviet union became great powers and they did about the same time and their mutual enemy was
poland. if you realize this, you understand better the match nations with hitler in the western front achkd the eastern front. but in the war, the ukrainian nationalists fought both the soviet and the ukraine -- and -- continued until 1947. lady -- president crew chef will threaten and send plague germs for pregnant women and children and it says ukrainian nationals get out of the forest or your women and children die and that ended that. but when you start the cold war, the soviet union takes the eastern empire as a protected area against invasion from the west, keeping the threat of germany which is dead in 1945. however, what happens then is, and many americans aren't aware
of this, one quarter of the former soviet union atomic missiles are still in the ukraine. and by the fact that we are trying to toy with the ukraine and support them again in the eu. it's the same and cuba and the united states in '62. and excusing the people in the proesz, i don't believe the press because most of what they say is ball loney, the -- in fact their entire navy consisted of almost all ukrainian sailors. so we start playing and trying to get them to revolt, which we never do, of course. putin has a right and that is only going to be resolved after much more blood shed, it is not
going to end overnight. thank you. >> just to add one, again to circle it back to the first world war, a lot of people don't know that there were american troops in north russia and siberia and there were regiments when other american troops were winding down on the western front, we still had troops well into 1919 and later who were also sin support of the white russians and there were a number of americans who lost their lives in an area we don't think of as an area of war. >> in fact josef stalin said that the cold war began when troops landed in 1919. >> you talk about how all this circumstan circles back to the first world war, and that seemed to precipitate even more war. did the people who came up with
the treaty of versailles and the other agreements, what did they not understand? >> i think part of it, when you look at the french, for example, there was a lot of anger, of course, they wanted retribution against the germans, a lot of their infrastructure was destroyed, a lot of citizens, the same thing with the belgins, a lot of their populations died at the hands of germans, so you have a lot of anner, you have a lot of animosity of going after the germans, and i think that animosity let to the germans -- having this treaty and the united states was kind of on the peripheral, as president wilson was kind of running it as the referee, it was never ratified in the united states and it ended up being more, i think, of the other allies kind of controlling things at the table. >> well, i think in some ways it also reflected the limitations
of american influence, when it came to the effort of internal dynamics of europe and really the deep seated hostilities that were at the core of the war, and how the wilson and all of his idealism, self determination, creating an international order of diplomatic relations was not ultimately effective in appea appeasing the different nations that were trying to sit down at the table and to resolve this great conflict, which ultimately led to the next great conflict of the 20th century. but i think even looking more specifically at the american perspective, and wilson specifically, his lack of attention to domestic affairs, the fact that when he was in versailles negotiating the peace treaty, america is inflames, you
have race riots taking place in the country, you have labor unrest. you have a tremendous amount of domestic upheaval, that affected the politics of getting the treaty passed through congress, which ultimately didn't happen. so i think there's a number of different factors looking from the perspective of the united states and wilson specifically, that speech why versailles was also a failure. >> george clements played wilson like a fiddle. in particular, you mention about the league of nations, the main weakness that had no army was controlled by britain and france, as the u.n. was when it was originally created in 1942.
whenever wilson would stand up and say -- this is how he gave into the mandates for asia, africa and the middle east. he was convinced by lord george and clemmen son who had to be snickering under his breath. but in the middle east, they will be free soon. and wilson fell for it. the main other point is, because i'm a european historian, is the austria hungarian empire was destroyed, created seven countries that could not exist alone and nationalism was the key. and this, if you go back to what i said earlier, if germany becomes a great power of the soviet union, these countries are there for picking, because they were nationalistic, each one had at least one-third of other races within them. and they all wanted to rule on
their own and wilson never visited the battlefields once, never understood what the war was about. and i hate to say it lloyd george and clemmons came out the winners in versailles. >> i think it's important to take a closer look back at the four years that were world war i. how to describe that war? history channel asked some historians and authors to give it a try in one word. >> if i had to choose one word to describe world war i it would be cataclysmic. >> the one war would be catastrophic. >> transformational because nothing was the same once the
war was over. >> the one word to describe world war i is destructive. >> i would choose the word mistake, stupid, that's how i would encapsule late the first would war. world war i did not have to happen. there was no inherent reason, it literally was dumb. a person during world war i thought they were in a new age, a fascinating modern world, the world that produced titanic, aviation and incredibled a manses in medicine. it seemed like everything was within grasp right before world war i and all of these would be smashed in the battlefields of europe. >> from the very beginning, the road to war because everything that comes out of the war and the peace plans was not just one mistake but a series of mistakes. people had the option to choose peace and time and again seemed to make the wrong decisions. >> it was lack of communication,
it was intellectual rigidity, it was a simple falling of dominos that never needed to fall so. the children of the renaissance and the age of reason and enlightenment ended up massacring themselves in the mud and blood of the trenches. >> not just destructive in terms of what happens to men on the battlefie battlefield, destructive in terms of global politics. >> the world that existed in 1918 was remarkably different from the one that existed in 1914. >> the whole globe was influenced by this war and the transformational changes cover a wide range from technology of weapons, you see the first tanks, you see the maturation of artillery guns, machine-guns, trench warfare, world war i begins the modern era.
>> that's an interesting piece, world war i began the mod aroer era, but brooks characterized it as a mistake, what did that man? >> it was an inevitable war with all the other empires, either what was going on in europe at that time that was kick started by the assassination in serbia and it went from there. >> i consider the causes of the war the alliance system is most important one, and this is how i sprain explain to my students, hung garry was going to invade, regardless. germany didn't start the first world war. austrian is going to invade
szczerbi serbia hoping that -- the wars of 1912, 1913 deserves a lot of explan nation, but we don't have time. why are britain and france and germany coming into the war on august 1? because of the alliance system. and i add the arms race, from 1911 on, everybody is arming to the teeth. there's going to be a war. if you read the book sleep walkers, everybody's raving about it, he's wrong, they weren't sleep walking. there's a book in kamans university press, we had to name is five to ten people most responsible for the outbreak of the war and they all knew what was going to happen because they were caught up in the nationalism, the most dangerousism of the 20th and 21st centuries. so the war starts out as a local
war, but austria hung garry has to invade -- because she has 15 nationalities. the war declaration against serbia is published in sap different languages. germany could not let austria-hungary be defeated, it was her only ally. and the treaty that was -- would take the weight off the west if they went to war. >> i think there's a danger in characterizing the war as stupid. because it mattered. at the time the war mattered to millions of people. they were fighting for something that they believed in. and people all over the world were engaged in this conflict. it was a truly world war. so dismiss it as stupid,
meaningless, i think runs the risk of dismissing it, you know, as a historical event. and i think some of the other historian who is spoke on the video spoke to the tremendous ous ramifications of the war, the transformations that took place in terms of technology in terms of just the nature of modern warfare, i mean world war i was a big deal, it mattered in big ways. so i would characterize if i had to choose one word. i would characterize it as tragic. it was a tragic historical moment but one that was incredibly important to how we think about the world today. >> certainly there's a reason why this museum that was built, originally a memorial here, because it was an important event, the people who were involved with it, whether they were on the battlefield, or whether they were political leaders knew that this was not the war to end all wars and
ultimately it was going to lead to other conflicts. >> you talk about the magnitude of this war and this building that we're in right now is a testament to that. world war i lasted four years and involved 20 countries and soldiers from five continents, 25,000 elys were lost. a generation at that time wiped out. and the u.s. was only involved for about the last 18 month of the war. 2 million americans served overseas, more than 116,000 were either killed in combat or disease, and that's nearly two times the number of american troops in korea and vietnam. this was called the war to end all wars, it was not, it was just the opposite here. help us to understand how the united states got involved in this war that was thousands of miles and an ocean away? >> using the worth inevitable zbechb, i think there was a point where the u.s. was going to get involved. i mean the chief reasons go back
to the sinking of the plus -- germanys -- weenl there's pressure put on the u.s. and i think we recognized the fact that we had to help our allies who were the british and the french at this time. there were a lot of american immigrants who would have been just as happy if the united states had gone on the side of germany and certainly fought against the british, but then you have the mexican revolution, which we became involved in, and the zimmerman telegram that said mexico, we'll help u you get that, arizona, texas and new mexico and that kind of turns the tide for the united states but there were so many people in this country that didn't really understand why do we need to get in a war that's more than 3,000 miles away, we're not directly involved in that. but without the united states, the war wouldn't have ended and
we certainly turned the tide. >> the united states was involved in the war in various ways, from the beginning. whether it's economic, providing arms for the allies, whether it's volunteers go to europe, to the red cross, you have americans following what's happening in the war and we mentioned that immigrant communities that have a clear connection to it is in terms of their relatives and family members, so when the united states got involved, formally in the war, i think in the spring of 1917, it wasn't as if this was just suddenly thrust upon the american people. these were questions, issues that americans have been confronting and debating for quite some time. burr trying to mobilize american population was a different story. and that's, i think where woodrow wilson becomes very important in terms of how he frames the war as a war to make
the world a safer democracy, kind of tapping into the democratic idealism of the united states and was quite effective in terms of mobilizing a country that was wholly unprepared for war, the united states had one of the smallest standing armies in the world, but by the time the war ended, you know, had emerged as a significant military power on the global stage. >> talk about public sentiment in that particular time in history, i don't think americans, were americans emotionally ready to go to war and how unready, as you mentioned they were not physically ready to go, how not ready were we? >> i was going to -- you ask an excellent question. i mean there's still animosity from the civil war, there was still divisiveness between the north and the south. so again, not everybody in this country said we need to fight for the united states overseas in a war, we certainly weren't
ready, as dr. williams pointed out, we had one of the smallest standing armies, we had a regular army force, we had a national guard that was morphed in the militia. do we weren't ready technologically to fight this war, we didn't have enough manpower, we had to institute a draft that was not entirely popular. it really was starting from scratch, so did the british when they got into the war, they had a small standing army as well. they had to rely on their form of militia, so the united states had that kind of learni ining c to build up. and this angered a lot of the military leaders in france and britain, bring them over and we'll meld them with our troops. personing was 2k3wi67 a mandate, you'll fight as an independent army, you eeg fight as an
american army, if you need to help out the other allies, so be it, but this was going to be an american army. and wilson never visited the battlefields, he said secretary of war baker over there a couple of times, he would report back to him. but wilson didn't really care so much about the fighting, he was worried about what was going to happen at the peace table once the war was over. >> the united states government created a tremendous propaganda machine to generate support for the war among many segments of the population who were skeptical for various reasons, you had the -- remarkable machine of government sponsored propaganda. but you also have a strong element of government
repression, you have one of the darker aspects of american involvement in the war is this tremendous suppression of individual lib berties that too place, restriction of the freedom of press that in some ways countered the democratic idealism that woodrow wilson was propagating. >> i would also like to mention capitalism because we do live in america. the united states government loaned money to britain. britain lost a all her gold reserves, but britain loaned money to italy and france. if we didn't enter the war, who was going to pay the bills? when we mentioned the luft -- all the newspapers in new york city contained articles that the ship contained utility shells and ammunition, it's a ship of war, but it's one of the reasons we go into the war.
i want to mention after the war, because this is one of the things that helps hitler. the italians have trouble obtaining the money, the -- so what do the americans do? they loan money to the government which is used to build buildings, i don't have time to go into it, it's not my class. but the depression makes the difference. it's over these payments, hitler only becomes important because of the depression. and then his party rises and i'll stop and let my colleagues get n. >> we'll switch gears just briefly here, when you look at this major war overseas, it also drove some huge cultural changes back here at home. how did the war further the fight for civil rights for women's rights, dr. williams, you've done a lot of research on this. >> in some ways, one of the most dramatic reverberations of the
war happened on the home front in terms of transformations and social, cultural, political and race relations in the united states. again, the way that the war was framed, to make the world safe for democracy, kind of tapped into the democratic aspirations of a broad range of marginalized people, groups inside the united states. we can look at the women's rights culmination in the 19 hth amendment. the fight for labor, fight for unionism, workers rights, african-americans who really used the language and discourse of democracy to engage in a struggle to affirm their citizenship rights in the united states but to also expand upon their citizenship rights which had really been under attack since the end of reconstruction, so that we can look at the fact that you have some 3,000
african-american soldiers that served in would war 1, roughly 40,000 fighting on the western front. very important in terms of what the event domestically as americans, looking at them as a source of hope and inspiration, but also their contributions to the war effort itself, which i think often go unrecognized, so we can look at the war in many ways being the burden of the modern civil rights movement. we're talking about the black experience, how you have a generation of african-americans who come out of the war determined to continue the fight for democracy, who take the lessons from the war, the positive developments, but also the disillusionments and translate that into sustained efforts for change, for racial change in the united states. that happens during world war ii
and culminates in the 1950s and 1960s. >> those african-american soldiers had to fight in french uniforms. talk a little bit about why that was, their lives in europe and their lives when they returned book to the united states? >> sure. you have two additidivisions, a can go on and on, i wrote a whole book about this. you had one division the 92n't dwags, that was subjected to institutionalized racism, had a very trying experience, especially amongst its black officers. but you have another addition, the 93rd division which was a provisional division knead up largely of black national guards man from new york, chicago, other places and per shing had promised the french a division of american troops, if and when
the united states entered the war, so not knowing what to do with this conglomeration of black national guardsmen he conveniently gave the 93rd division to the french army, they served under french kmangd, wore french uniforms and -- in some ways their experience spoke to the challenges that african-americans faced in serving in american military, but also the idolism that serving under the french generated as far as providing black soldiers with a different view of racial possibilities, that there were alternatives to what they were experiencing, what they had experienced in the united states and this, again, translated into the post war period. >> i would like to add also some of the unsung heroes were native
americans, there were thousands of native americans who served in the combat division, out of the 86th had a number of native americans, and we know about the navajo code talkers, that dates to the first world war where there were choctaw code talkers had used the telephone and used their own dialect and came up with some kind of jibberish message that fooled the germans. but native americans were rewarded for their so-called service by being given nationalation after the war. >> the war also drove incredible advances in technology, they rode in on horse back and came out on airplanes. talk a little bit about what people may not know about the technology and advancement that happened these four years that were world war i. >> medical research,
particularly advanced, because you didn't have your wonder drugs yet. give you one example and a lot of head wounds were fatal, particularly in the alps, that was the worst field of battle in the first world war in europe. and the artillery shells would hit the rocks and the people of rocks would go in the heads because they didn't have feel helmets until the end of the war. and austria who won a war in -- you clean out the wound, a lot of times you went like with abraham lincoln and totally treated the wound incorrectly. armor did not prove itself in the first world war, in fact the germans didn't see it as being that worthwhile arm because they didn't build a lot of tanks because their artillery would stop them. so that will be a development later. the telegraph and the telefoen
become critical in the pittsburgh world war because it would lead to the advances that would start in the second world war. but oil becomes the mainstay of warfare, this 134r5i7bs the middle east later and even today, oil is the background, as we all know, it's not going to last for every, we somewhere got to come up with solutions, it's the key to military power. that's why china is trying to get all the oil she can. and within a few decades, it will be the first time in history a country will be able to threaten an invasion of the united states. >> anybody else have anything to add about the technology that was developed during the war? >> i was going to say some of the paintings you see that were done after the war or even well after show hand to hand combat. that was unusual and part of the reason was the fastball that the machine-gun were so deadly.
the germans were master of the machine-guns. it was very difficult to get close to them because they were air ball to use them with such deadly effectiveness that having bayonet fighting and hand to hand and wrestling that you see in some of these paintings just really never happened. >> from the film with the artillery, it's critical to understand that. when the war began, artillery will end up being the killer of 81% of those killed in world war i. but artillery was not accurate. and you'll see on the western front and the eastern front, the idea is more and more artillery. it's not until the end of the war that artillery becomes a truly effective weapon. before that, an italian front in one battle, the italians had an artillery piece every four feet and just decimated the area in fromt of them. but artillery is the key web in world war i, it's evolution is
slow and it's not cleatompletedt in 1918. >> add to that, tanks, poison gas, a number of ways to purpose trait the horror of war more effectively. world war i has been called the forgotten war. why is it so important to remember? we asked a few historians and authors. >> i think it's so important to remember the first world war because it shaped the world that we live in now. it wasn't just something that's long, gone and buried. the conflicts that emerged, the border disputes that emerged from world war i continued to plague us in very steers ways. >> world war i is called the forgotten war because it was overshadowed by world war ii. and not only was world war ii great never scope, it was also mechanicalized, the nazis on one
side and the per traitors of pearl what are for on others. you could almost call world war ii lord of the rings with tanks. whereas world war i was young men dying in mud in trenches that didn't move. it's not really the stuff of heroic songs and largely the madness of world war i has been overshadowed by the crusade of world war ii. >> we went into it grossry unprepared achkd we repeated the same lesson over again in world war ii. >> the solution to the end of the war was not a swlugs. and that is the lesson we can use to this day, we have to be very careful about how we conduct international relations, especially when it involves armed conflict. >> individuals were not object confront with the war, they were confronted with the pandemic flu outbreak. and so many of our young men
died of not combat, but of the closeness that they had to live and the pandemic that spread. america faced a tragedy, but the world faced a tragedy in that. the significant loss of life in world war i can be something that we can never forget. >> world war i is important to rib because it birthed an american century. we hear over and over again about the greatest generation, but who were the parents of the grea greatest generation? who forged the greatest generation? it was the world war i veterans and it was the families of the world war i veterans. in addition to remembering those lives lost and the families of those world war i veterans, it's important to remember this war because there are starkly geopolitical
parallels between now and then. people have said the world is kind of on a crash course because of nationalism once again and other conflicts in the world. are these valid comparisons? >> i think to some of the points made in this film, there were heroes, there were a lot of heroes, for example in the american army, the highest honor one could receive was the medal of honor. and that wasn't given out lightly, that was given out to men who did heroic things that supported their comrades, some of them died trying, freddy stauers, who dr. williams can talk about, he mentions him in his book, was killed in battle. he was part of the 93rd division, he was the only american that got the medal of honor posthumously. a word to describe that war is terrifying, when you read the
accounts, it was a terrifying experience. the artillery, the machine guns, these were experiences these men brought home with them and a lot of them just didn't want to talk a lot of them did not want to talk about it. they never mentioned it to the families. during my work in the national archives i would meet families who found out much later on that a had someone -- a relative who had fought in the war. they never talked about because it was such an horrific experience. certainly in this country, it became a forgotten war. thankfully, for the national memorial heroes museum, we can still remember what they did and i hope the next four years we will be a will to pay tribute to those people. >> you can talk about this as well, it is certainly not a forgotten war in europe. if you go to france and great britain and germany, world war i they're still living with it on a daily basis.
french farmers are still digging up unexploded artillery shells. its still a part of many lives of many people pp in united states, out of the reason why the war may be forgotten has to do with the trauma as well as the disillusionment, and how the reasons for why the united states fought in the war became very contested immediately after the war in 1919. the failure of the united states to join the league of nations. americans were actively questioning what was this war about, what were the sacrifices were that we made for? that has been passed down from generation to generation. why the war doesn't have the same resonance in the united states as it does in europe. >> in europe, it certainly does. i have been in poland and all
over europe, particularly central and eastern europe, giving talks. all over central and eastern europe, they have fallen tears dsh neff volunteers /* /- /* /- /* replacing all the gravestones of those who died in the first world war. in little villages and big cities, they will never be forgotten in europe because an entire generation was destroyed. >> in the so-called lost generation after the war, the great writers like hemingway and faulkner were disillusioned. i thought they were going to make a great contribution to this conflict there they went
in early as volunteers. no one was really happy about it very certainly the germans weren't nor were the allies. the people who fought in it started questioning what we gave for this? what was our contribution? >> we look at the world today, some people have made comparisons between how the world looks then and how the world looks today, about certain conflicts and rivalries between countries. to compare that to how the world looks prior to world war i. talk about china growing militarily and economically. how daunting are those comparisons in your mind? should we be concerned? >> i think we should be concerned. it is the story before world war i of germany before england and possibly france. believe me, those of you think rush is not a threat, i have a bridge to sell you in brooklyn. russia is still a great power and is very dangerous. but the power and threat, and i'm earned used overpopulation. you're not aware of it by 2050, india will pass china and they will have well over half the world population. that often leads to war.
just to give you an example how world war i affected what is going on today. in world war i, president wilson told the chinese leaders that if they would go to war against germany, he would make sure that the peace treaty that they could bring up the shandong peninsula question which had been taken by the japanese. well, when the versailles treaty came up, clem and lloyd george said to president wilson that we have a secret treaty with japan. it keeps the shandong peninsula. the telegraph arrived and the versailles treaty which the vietnamese, the chinese, et cetera on the racial clause was ignored, critical, a century later. believe me. the key is, when the telegraphs arrived in china and they found out that they did not get the shandong peninsula, it led to
the 4th of may movement, a gigantic upheaval. workers, intellectuals, as a result of this the in 1919, by 1920, the chinese communist party was formed and the nationalist party. japan invaded china in 31 and 37. chang kai-shek was one of the most corrupt rulers in history. he was notorious for not fighting the japanese because he could not beat them. so he kept fighting the go from 1921 to 1949. in world war ii, chiang spend most of his time fighting communists and we were supporting him. in '49, the revolution succeeded. that is when the cold war moved to asia.
you had the korean war. i can throw in japan. why is the korean war? because china had a revolution. the cold war is here. china has seen itself as betrayed by the americans and disliked us going back to the first world war era. is china a threat? she has a lot of nationalities, but she has a lot of problems and is destroying the earth environmentally, but she is also very dangerous. >> i think when you get some challenges facing the world today, it raises a lot of questions about the efficacy of the international bodies. i think there are lessons to be learned from world war i about how to prevent wars and what steps need to be taken to create robust, sustainable international governing bodies. look at what is happening in israel, and gaza, ukraine, in
syria. where is the united nations? where is the european union. hopefully we can look back on world war i and some of the failures i came out of the war and hopefully take some lessons about how to prevent these large-scale global conflicts from escalating into something more sinister. >> the u.s. had military advisors and attaches all over europe and they were reporting on political, economic, military conditions. we knew what germany was doing. staff. they were preparing for war. this should not have come as a great surprise. what is going on in china? we need to be aware of what the chinese are doing.
we need to not get caught off guard like we did in the korean conflict. >> thank you. we will take a few questions now from members of our live audience and from people online. you can tweak questions to @ww1centennialcommission. any questions from the audience? >> can anyone on the panel compare the recent downing of airliner over the ukraine with the sinking of the much discussed lusitania here today? >> i would like to say that to fly over that area was insane. you have a war zone, why are you flying over it? most of the major countries were not flying over it anymore. i think it was stupidity in the part of the malaysian airlines. >> another question from our
audience? >> i was wondering if you could elaborate just on the effect that world war i had on women in america after the aftermath. you elaborated a little bit on labor groups and race relations. >> a think the first world war gave women an opportunity. men went off to war, so that women just like in the second world war took over in factories and in other jobs they would normally not have been allowed to work at. certainly after the war, women's rights. women played a significant role overseas in volunteer organizations like the salvation army, ymca, but also as telephone operators. of course nurses, and i am talking about this country. the world had changed and it opened up from this experience for women to be more empowered.
>> another question? gentleman in the back. >> i would like to maybe slightly disagree with those who say that the soldiers of world war i were a lost generation, in that many of the soldiers who fought in world war i came back and became community leaders. we have such people in kansas city as the judge and the gentleman who spearheaded the whole idea behind brown versus board of education. there are so many people who joined the american legion who became great assets to their
community with goals and ideas that someone picked up when they were in europe. >> you're absolutely right. a lot of soldiers came back and became community leaders and their churches and civic organizations and businesses. the point i want to make earlier was that they had such a horrific experience, especially on the western front, in the trenches. as dr. williams pointed out, if you are an african-american you were treated poorly by your white officers. when they came back they didn't want to talk about what happened to them in the combat zone but they wanted to move on with their lives and become better people, become community leaders. >> the war was incredibly transformative for individual soldiers identities. in the case of african-american soldiers the opportunity to travel to different parts of the country, travel to to different
parts of the world. the idea of a rural sharecropper from alabama the going to france was revolutionary. the war expanded the horizons of many american soldiers, especially black troops, and they used those experiences to transform their lives for the better after the war, to transform the lives of those in their families and their communities. many african-american soldiers did become key members of their civil rights organizations. charles hamilton houston was one of the architects of the naacp's legal strategy to combat jim crow segregation, served as an officer in the american army during the war. you have many american soldiers who come back from the war who are deeply transformed and take those experiences into various aspects of their lives to affect
change, locally as well as nationally. >> in the military there was americans and on the other side the germans and russians. the lieutenants and captains survived the first world war, back the generals and field marshals of the "second world war." in the military realm, it was affected as well. >> if you can just keep your hands up so rebecca can get to you. >> i just wanted to know from your perspective, we seem to be talking about the '20's as a generation where women get rights. there's a big social change for them. why do you think it took longer for african-americans to get that same sort of momentum in terms of civil rights movement? just a general opinion, how much
of a difference would it have made it united states had joined the league of nations? >> in the case of african-americans, you have a deeply entrenched history and legacy of racism and systemic discrimination which took time to fight against. what is important to think about in terms of the significance of world war i is we see the groundwork being laid, the seeds being sewn for the civil rights movement. you have individuals who are maturing, coming of age. you have organizations like the naacp, the urban league that are growing and expanding. you have important shifts in the demographics of the country with african-americans migrating to the north. that affects political change. change being the calculus of politicians on the local and national levels as far as how they are going to support
various civil rights efforts out of political expediency. it does take time, and that is why i think many historians today tend to think of the civil rights movement as not being the singular moment, but as a process, a long civil rights movement that really began in the late 19th century and perhaps even continues today. >> can i answer the league of nations? >> i was going to ask. go ahead. >> the main problem with league of nations is that it did not have any armed forces. if you don't have armed forces you don't make decisions. the united states and all the countries that fought in world war i had been bled to death. they were not anxious to fight. the league of nations, even if the united states had been in, i don't think the american people would have voted to send troops anywhere. the league of nations was a
playground for england and france. it was not truly a league of nations at all. if you look at mussolini in invading ethiopia, he got slapped on the hand. does the league of nations do anything when the japanese invaded china? no. they put out a paper saying this probably should not have happened. i'm not a big fan of the league of nations. you can probably catch that. [laughter] the league of nations without armed forces was not going to make a difference. >> we have a question from online. would there not have been a hitler had the been no world war i? >> hitler was nothing in germany.
again, it was the depression. when the depression hit, hitler took all the arguments against versailles, articles 231 and 232, germany started the war, therefore she must pay. stab in the back. it was economic troubles of the depression that brought him forward. it is the depression era that stalin was able to use to build up the russian army. you would not have had a hitler if it had not been for the depression. >> we have time for one more question. >> we have a question from facebook. he asks: does too much focus on the western front distort the
history of the first world war? if so, how to compensate for this? a lot of people don't understand the caucasus front. there are academic books out there that have this information. the western front, this is the key, if you don't understand it. the winning powers write what they want. since the british speak english, sort of like ours, we get what they say. we get what they say. i will tell you little secret. look at any book written before 1990 and you will see no picture of a french soldier in a british history of the first world war. the british only had 25 miles of the front. >> we may have room for one more
question. >> i want to thank the panel for a very informed discussion. my question basically i would like to hear your honest opinion about how far we have evolved as a society when we -- [laughter] i will elaborate. i think it is alarming to see historians say this war was stupid simply because we continue to make the same mistakes. we talk about nationalism and we see it right here in america. being pulled into iraq after 9/11. none of our leaders have the courage to stand up to that based on nationalism. are we still just barely tamed animals willing to destroy each other? >> i have more faith in the human species that we would not replicate what happened in the
first world war. i certainly think there are important lessons to be learned. there are eerie parallels. i do think we have perhaps evolved to a point, and i am trying to be as optimistic as possible, that we would not replicate what happened in the first world war. i think the costs were so high that the memories are still so vivid and with us that we would not make those kind of mistakes again. >> i just would like to say -- the trouble in the middle east and other areas is religion. >> you mention in your question about nationalism. certainly, nationalism became so as americans got further into
the war. if we got into a major conflict like that again, americans would join together. one of the problems you brought up, was preparedness. we weren't prepared for that war. even though there were leaders who urged the united states. that is something we should consider. as things got more and more dangerous in the century. >> the problem is that armed forces were being made weaker and weaker. i don't think we should be the policeman of the continent, but you don't have diplomacy unless you have military force. that is what we have got to understand with china and russia. they understand force. they don't understand words. they'll listen to words. >> we will have to leave it there. i want to thank my panel. [applause] thank you so much. thank you.
would also like to thank our audience for your thoughtful questions and we would like to thank you for your thoughtful answers. we would also like to extend a big debt of gat attitude to the national world war i museum and to history channel and national world war i commission for making this possible. thank you for joining us. >> on the next washington journal dr. gavin macgregor-skinner on the response to ebola virus. an update on key mid-term election. transportation reporter on what the government and trucking industry are doing to improve highway safety. washington journal begins live at 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. >> this weekend on the c-span networks on saturday night at 9:00 eastern the founder and
former chair of microsoft gill gates on the ebola virus outbreak in west africa and sunday evening at 8:00 on q and a director of national museum of african art. saturday night at 10:00, heather cobs richardson on the history of the republican parent live sunday at noon on book tv's in depth, legal affairs editor and in charge of reuters. and saturday at 5:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv on c-span 3, former fbi agents on catching the una bomber suspect and on sunday afternoon on american artifacts the 100th anniversary of the panama canal. find our situation schedule at c-span organize. call us at 202-626-3400, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. join the c-span conversation, like us on facebook, follow us
on twitter. next, gettysburg college history professor examines the experiences of world war i soldiers. he looks at the work of three writers including earnest hemingway to illustrate how soldiers coped with the trauma of war and their transition to civilian life. this lecture is an hour and 20 minutes. >> all right. we'll go ahead and get started with today's class. today we're covering as you can see, disillusionment, first world war disillusionment and how we should approach the topic. iwill begin this class with a way i have never begun world war memories. i'm going to begin with a
canonical poem. a poem that comes out of the first world war and is reprinted in anthologies over and over again to show us something of the experience of the great war and its memory. you will undoubtedly recognize it because you read it for today's class. not need, coughing like pegs, we cursed through sludge. still on the hunting, we turned our backs and toward our distant began to trudge. men marched asleep many have lost their boots, but slinked on bloodshot. all lying. drunk with fatigue, outstripped